Tough Forgiveness is a phrase I would like to encourage you to use as it helps makes it easier to forgive in difficult and challenging circumstances. With Tough Forgiveness we forgive (and do forgiveness work such as using the Four Steps to Forgiveness), but we still give ourselves permission to exit the relationship if the other person does not change.
You have probably come across the idea of Tough Love. Tough Forgiveness is a similar idea. As mentioned in the page on Reconciliation forgiveness is unconditional, but reconciliation is sometimes conditional.
With Tough Forgiveness any reconciliation is conditional as it partly depends on how the other person behaves from now on. This is important as people often confuse forgiveness with reconciliation and assume that they always go together. However, they are really two different processes which only sometimes go together. With Tough Forgiveness, we unconditionally forgive them (ie we let go of wanting to punish them) but we put clear and specific boundaries around the process of reconciling with them. This helps minimize the chances that we will simply be hurt again (and again) in the same way by the same person.
Deciding to protect ourselves from harm is very different from deciding to avoid someone as a way of punishing them. It may look the same to the other person, but it is less likely to do so if we are open about what we are doing and why. With Tough Forgiveness we can forgive someone and still avoid them in order to protect ourselves.
There is an ennobling quality to forgiveness which lifts our mind to a higher level and allows us to step free.
As I like to say in Forgiveness is Power:
Forgiveness gives us the freedom to stay and the freedom to walk away.
With Tough Forgiveness you might choose to forgive AND:
Create clear agreements about specific issues so that you are willing to go ahead.
Specify the types of behavior which you do not find acceptable and which will cause you to end or pause the reconciliation process.
Limit the types of contact you have with the other person, till specific conditions are met.
Want agreement to do something to increase mutual understanding such as going to a counsellor together.
The core of Tough Forgiveness is mutual respect. Tough forgiveness means ensuring that the other person knows and respects how you feel and that you know and respect how they feel. If this kind of mutual respect is not present then there is no real relationship and no real grounds for reconciliation.
Reconciliation is not just a decision; it is a process. As part of Tough Forgiveness we may want to make sure that they really understand how we felt about whatever they did. However, Tough Forgiveness does not mean we get to put the blame for everything we are unhappy about onto someone else. There is a big difference between, “This is how I feel… and it is your fault.” and simply saying, “This is how I feel…” The first is loaded with blame and judgement. The second is more of a mutually respectful expression of honest feelings.
We may also decide that reconciliation is just not possible. If someone is not intending to change we can be sure that they won’t! Not matter how much we may want them to. You never want to lie to yourself about how you really feel because if it becomes a habit it can too easily lead to False Forgiveness.
If you are not ready to forgive someone, or not ready to reconcile with them, then you need to forgive yourself and accept how you feel. In this way you can at least be reconciled with yourself. You may need time to recover, to renew yourself, and to restore your faith in life before you will be ready to tackle some of the bigger issues. Once you have more practice with both forgiving and reconciliation you will be more able to forgive, and perhaps even reconcile, with the more challenging ones.